MANATEE — There is plenty that separates Manatee County Commission candidates Robin DiSabatino and Roger C. Galle as they seek the District 4 seat.
Galle, the Democrat, is a staunch supporter of Amendment 4, which would allow the state’s voters to weigh in on each change to a government’s development plan.
The Republican DiSabatino disagrees, worrying that businesses thinking about relocating to Florida will choose another state if they’re forced to seek voters’ OK for every new project.
DiSabatino has been a fundraising machine, raising $118,485 through Sept. 24, while Galle has run his campaign on a shoestring budget.
But both candidates in this south county area are adamant their district has been neglected by previous commissions. District 4 is lacking the reclaimed water and street and sidewalk improvements long promised it, they said.
“I’m tired of my tax dollars going out to Lakewood Ranch,” Galle said recently during a recent meeting of the Bayshore Gardens Homeowners Association. “I don’t go out east. I don’t even go out to the interstate by going east. I go north.”
“The people in our district need a voice, and I think I’m that voice,” DiSabatino said. DiSabatino, 57, and Galle, 56, both political newcomers, will square off for the District 4 seat on Nov. 2. Only District 4 voters will decide the race. The winner will replace Commissioner Ron Getman, who chose not to seek re-election, for a four-year term that pays $74,764 annually.
DiSabatino, a Realtor, survived a tight three-way race in the August primary, defeating Norm Luppino and Tim Norwood by a total of 254 votes despite owning a wide fundraising advantage.
She said she plans to organize a District 4 business coalition to increase the influence small businesses wield.
“We need to give them some tax breaks and some incentives to stay here so they can free up some of their cash, they can hire more people and get more inventory,” DiSabatino said.
Galle also seeks more jobs for his constituents, but he said home construction is not the answer. He will encourage manufacturers to do business in Manatee.
“The difference is how I plan on creating jobs,” he said. “I think Manatee County’s future depends on the port. We need businesses that manufacture things and send them out of Manatee County.”
Galle has had to explain to voters the $58,000 debt he owes the Internal Revenue Service. Galle said his commercial painting business suffered during the recession. He has downsized the company from 17 employees to two and has begun to pay down what once was a $118,000 debt.
“A lot of us have had problems in the economic downturn,” Galle said. “I made a choice to pay my employees and pay for paint to keep them busy. ... It’s not illegal to owe the IRS money. It’s illegal not to file.”
DiSabatino said the debt casts doubt on Galle’s judgment.
“I think elected officials are held to a higher standard,” she said. “We need to be accountable, and we need to be fiscally sound because we’re entrusted with the money of the people in the district.”
Galle, who has raised $4,170 for his campaign, countered that DiSabatino’s acceptance of developer funding should indicate where her loyalties will lie.
“I’m paying my debt. That debt will be a whole lot harder to pay than mine,” he said.
But DiSabatino is proud of her varied campaign support.
“I was in the race whether anybody was backing me or not,” she said. “I put my own money in this race. ... I have more than 400 contributors that have heard my message.”